Despite Samsung smart watches, Tizen fails to show much progress

BARCELONA, Spain--Tizen, the mobile phone operating system backed by Samsung Electronics, enjoyed a significant boost through the release of Samsung's new Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches. However, Tizen did not announce any new smartphones running on its platform--increasing concerns that Tizen will eventually fall behind other smartphone operating systems like Windows Phone, Sailfish and Firefox OS.

Samsung's Galaxy Gear 2 runs on the Tizen platform.

That Samsung selected Tizen as the operating system for its new smart watches represents a significant boost for the operating system. The previous version of Samsung's Galaxy Gear smart watch, which has shipped more than 800,000 units, ran on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. Samsung announced its switch to Tizen at the same time that the Tizen Association announced two new profiles for the platform, for wearable devices and for TVs, as well as a larger number of companies joining the association as partners.

Tizen continues to target smartphones, but a number of major carriers recently backed away from their support for Tizen, and so far no company has released a commercial Tizen-powered smartphone.

Samsung did not say why it was switching from Android to Tizen for its smart watches. The company said the watches will let "users connect to a wide variety of Samsung devices and access an enriched application ecosystem as the first wearable powered by Tizen based wearable platform." Additionally, the firm said the new devices are compatible with "dozens" of Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

During a press event here at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, the Tizen Association sought to drum up interest in its platform as a viable alternative to Android and other smartphone platforms. The chairman of the Tizen Association, DoCoMo executive Roy Sugimura, acknowledged he has spent much of the past year refuting reports of the operating system's demise. But he said that Tizen now has "profiles" that will support TVs to watches, in addition to its existing profiles for tablets and smartphones. However, there are still no commercial Tizen smartphones, and carrier support is wavering for the platform, based on recent reporting from the Wall Street Journal singling out Orange and DoCoMo as carriers that are holding off on releasing Tizen smartphones.

Indeed, Sugimura told Re/Code that DoCoMo decided to hold off on releasing a Tizen phone due to its recent move to begin selling Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, in order to not flood the market with too many devices.

Tizen used its media event here to dole out $4.04 million in awards to developers that have built Tizen applications. Silesia Games won the top prize in the contest, $200,000, for its Beyond Space game for Tizen. But Silesia executives explained that the company hasn't made any money from Beyond Space for Tizen because there are no Tizen phones that have been commercially released, and there isn't an app store yet for Tizen games.

Silesia executives said the company's Beyond Space game was designed in C++ originally for Samsung bada platform, and was then ported to Tizen. The company plans to begin selling the game on Apple's iOS platform sometime in the future.

Perhaps more importantly for Tizen, the platform's smartphone user interface appears to be an extremely simplified version of Android. Samsung Galaxy smartphones had the Tizen operating system installed on them at the Tizen press event, allowing attendees a chance to surf through the smartphone platform. The Tizen smartphone user interface features a grid of application icons, much like Android and iOS, as well as a notification shade that could be accessed by swiping down from the top of the device's screen. And the Tizen interface featured a number of standard applications like an Internet browser, calendar and email. But there were no real innovations beyond these basic functions, and there didn't appear to be much difference between Tizen and a simplified version of Android or iOS.

For more:
- see this previous article
- see this Re/Code article
- see this CNET article

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